On being present

By Maria Doogan

Spring is in the air. Every sight and every sound. Beyond warmth and wattle trees blooming, it’s a feeling of hope, optimism, and looking forward coloured by whatever is your favourite hue – for me, it’s the yellow of the heart chakra.

And a great time for new beginnings. Or so I thought, in hindsight, quite foolishly, when a quick consult with Dr Google led me to try to quit coffee. (Dr Google told me that it would help clear up my skin, which, at 50, is still prone to breakouts and really really sh*#ts me).

I say try because the awkward silences as I told people about this unusual and, so it seemed, at best, ridiculous and at worst anti-Melbourne act, got the better of me after three days.

I’ve gotta say, you know you’ve made the wrong decision when you proudly and virtuously announce something and people just look downright perplexed. ‘Why?’ was the usual question, followed by a bored look and a quick change of conversation.

Clearly giving up coffee, unlike giving up alcohol, cigarettes, or something really, really bad for you was never going to be a thing. A coffee-less existence is, it seems, a kind of pointless suffering that is without value or purpose. Like totally grey.

I’ve had two coffees today. Both delicious and aromatic, and surprisingly guilt-free and whilst usually I frequent a delightful and eclectic selection of cafes around Lonsdale and Spring streets, I tried out two new ones today on Exhibition and Lonsdale. And that brings me to another spring-type thing I’m doing – taking a different path.

So, I’m like pretty much set in my ways and live in my head. It’s all thinking, dissecting, analysing, concluding, picking apart and putting back together. (I’m an Aquarian.)

This living in my head helps me to escape the fact that I am in Melbourne, going to work on the tram, going home to look after my boys, cooking and cleaning rather than traveling to Cambodia to have exotic adventures, or perhaps own a café, and just be responsible for cooking beautiful food without having to get up early, or a published author, or food critic, or … (insert fantasy life).

It occurred to me just this week that being “unpresent” in the context of my quite nice life, is actually akin to being a little bit ungrateful, not appreciating what I have, and taking it all for granted.

So, to be more present, one has to break old habits and shock the system into sitting up and paying attention right? So I’ve been doing this, little by little. Taking a different route to work, going for a walk at lunchtime, reaching out to friends I haven’t seen for a while, questioning some old beliefs.

So far, so good. Mostly I’ve been happy being present. It has led me to some surprising encounters. I came across a magpie in Carlton Gardens sitting beside the path that looked like a kindly bird … you know, in an Enid Blyton sort of way and it made that beautiful warble, which is beautiful.

My walk up Nicholson St, which I never really wanted to do because, you know, the tram is just there and it’s a habit to take it, has given me more of a feel for the community there, and a feeling of belonging.

Walking is so grounding.  But that’s a subject for another (spring) day  …

X Maria

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